Project Management

Programme Budgeting: Creating Schedules

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A blog that looks at all aspects of project and program finances from budgets, estimating and accounting to getting a pay rise and managing contracts. Written by Elizabeth Harrin from GirlsGuideToPM.com.

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Programme Budgeting: Creating Schedules


Categories: budget, scheduling


Programmes (as we spell program here in the UK), are made up of various different projects and often BAU elements or non-project components too. The programme budget needs to reflect two things.

First, it should include all the costs relating to the components. These could come from detailed project budgets, contracts and the work involved in costing out the deliverables, outcomes and outputs that make up the programme overall. This aspect is going to make up most of the budget.

Second, it should include the costs involved in running the programme. These are most likely to be resource costs and any other operational support costs such as the fees involved with hiring a location to work from during the programme and things like that. This aspect is a not insignificant amount but in my experience it’s normally less than the costs of the projects.

The exact split of component costs and programme management overheads is going to depend on your exact project and how you account for people’s time.

The two schedules that come out of the cost budgeting for a programme are:

  • The programme payment schedule
  • The component payment schedule.

These two terms sound very similar so let’s briefly look at what they mean.

The programme payment schedule is about money in. It relates to the dates and milestones where funding will be made available. These could be payments from the client, or your internal decision points or gates where funding will be released for the next phase of work.

The component payment schedule is about money out. It relates to when contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers are going to be paid. I see it as a summary of the contractual payment dates as most of my supplier contracts for large projects in the past have a milestone-driven payment schedule. When the milestone is reached and signed off, the payment can be made to the vendor.

The milestones tend to be linked to delivery e.g. completion of design, delivery of functionality etc. When a component is completed, the component-related budget can be closed off.

Both of these schedules provide info to the programme budget baseline. The baseline will need to be revisited regularly if my experience is anything to go by. Prepare a forecast, review the estimates and actuals, and update as and when you need to, with the approval of whatever governance processes you have in place.

Then make sure any changes are trickled through to the relevant budget lines, and any other documentation is updated.

The programme and component schedules might be called schedules, but they aren’t the same as your main programme (or project) schedule. That represents the timeline of work; what we often call the project plan (even though technically speaking it is not the project plan – that’s a separate document made up of lots of plans…).

The budget-related schedules are timelines in their own right, and you could put the milestones or key dates into your main schedule. Personally, I think that’s confusing, but it’s up to you. I prefer to put payment dates in my normal calendar, with a note the week or so before to make sure I have the paperwork in place to get the milestone approved.

I also use that early warning action to let Finance know that a big payment will be due, and the supplier’s sizeable invoice will be coming through for payment. Having once been caught out by trying to get a large invoice paid at short notice, I’ve learned the lesson of giving my colleagues in Finance plenty of time for their approvals and related Treasury tasks. 

Do you have any other tips for managing the different aspects of a programme budget? 

Posted on: August 10, 2022 08:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (1)

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Your two schedules establish the programme's cash flow.

I've used a budget (baseline), actuals and outlook/forecast approach fo financial reporting. Don't forget to take into account payment terms (e.g. Net 30) as they will affect your days sales outstanding. DSO is usually a crucial organizational metric.

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